Cats and Water: Do Cats Hate Water?
You’ve probably heard that cats hate water. But have you ever stopped to think about the reasons your cat might not be so fond of water? Your house cat retains the same instincts as her wild cousins. Her behavior is guided by that of a predator but also as one of potential prey. Your cat knows she must remain in good shape and alert to be able to escape potential danger.
Cat’s Top Layer of Fur is Water Resistant But Not Enough To Keep Your Cat Dry
Your cat’s top layer of fur is somewhat water resistant but not enough to keep her dry if she is drenched with water. This soaking of her fur creates a weighted down and unfamiliar feeling. Your cat might feel trapped by the feeling of a heavier coat increasing feelings of vulnerability. Cats are creatures of habit and do not like changes that make them feel a sense of uncertainty.
Our cat Annie is quite curious about water. She makes a point of leaping up into the kitchen window to watch me wash up dishes after dinner. The water swirling down the drain fascinates her. I allow Annie to inspect the water on her own terms and never splash her or force her to get wet. Eddie likes to sneak up and catch a few drops of water out of our reverse osmosis faucet.
Your Cat may Hate the way water smells
Your cat may not hate water, but hate the way water smells. The purified water that comes from this faucet does not have the same chemical smell that might permeate our tap water. Our cats may turn their nose up at the unfamiliar smell of chemicals that are in tap water. A cat’s nose is sophisticated and knows the difference between natural smells such as soil in water and the pungent smell of chlorine. The smell alone could be reason enough for your cat to turn their nose up at water.
Even if your cat is curious about water like our Annie and Eddie, there is a big difference between dipping in a paw to test the surface or letting a few drops fall on their head while drinking from a faucet than being submerged against their will.
How Big and Small Cats Drink water
Cats even have a unique way of drinking water that keeps their chin and sensitive whiskers dry. Your cats use fluid dynamics and physics to take in water. While a dog will curl their tongue like a ladle to collect water, a cat curves the tongue under and slightly back, leaving the top surface of the tip of the tongue to barely touch the water. The cat then raises the tongue rapidly, creating an upward mini-stream of water, about four mini-streams per second. A cat then closes the mouth shut capturing the water before the force of gravity pulls it back down.
Big cats use the same maneuver for drinking as our house cats, though the larger cats slow down their lapping to take advantage of the physics of balancing the upward movement of the water set off by their tongue. A lion laps about two times per second versus your house cats four times per second
Cats in hot climates vs cats in colder climates
Cats living in hot climates might not be as averse to water as their cousins living in colder climates. Water provides a way for cats to cool off with a swim or just a quick dip. Cats are able to swim and in fact big cats that live in hot climates, like tigers, lions and jaguars are skilled swimmers.
The Turkish Van breed of domesticated cats has been nicknamed the “Swimming Cat” because of their fondness of water. This breed of cat was known to swim in Turkey’s Lake Van and even swim out to greet returning fishing boats. If you share your home with a Turkish Van you might also share your bathtub with this water-loving feline.
How to Help keep your cat clean when needed
Cats are fastidious about grooming so keeping clean is a top priority for them but this doesn’t mean our version of a bath is a good idea for the cat. At some point in your cat’s life it might become necessary to lend a helping hand to help your cat get clean. Wiping your cat down with a warm damp washcloth rather than plunging her into the bathtub is the better solution to help your cat come clean. Plan ahead by providing a nice warm towel to wrap around your cat and rub gently to help her dry off. If it is cold and you think your cat will tolerate the noise, you can use a blow dryer on low to make sure her coat is dry.
Cats embrace water on their own terms
So it isn’t so much that your cat hates water but that they embrace water on their own terms. As long as we respect our cat’s needs and don’t force her into anything she might not be comfortable doing, everybody will be happier.